There might be what appears to be a free lunch, but something else always gets you in the end.
Hi Ho, Hi Ho. It's off to work I go. With a headset and a map And a suitcase full of crap Hi Ho, Hi Ho, Hi Ho, Hi Ho.
Except in this case, scratch the suitcase.
I checked it in before departure, and dropped it wheels up on the appropriate conveyor belt, but I didn't do what a savvy traveller should really be doing every time. I didn't look at the paper tape that the agent attached to the handle. It's mostly bar codes, but it should also have borne the letters YMM. You know what is coming now, but I was oblivious, just happy that the airline had a complimentary copy of the Globe and Mail for me, and that there was a short line for security. And then I was distracted until just before boarding by difficulties unhibernating my computer.
On the descent into Calgary, I had put away my Globe and Mail, and cinched up my seatbelt for the roller coaster turbulence coming from high winds over the Rocky Mountains on a hot day. I still had my boarding pass on my lap, and something odd caught my eye. The checked baggage sticker on the back started with the code YU. It's common for internal codes to omit the first Y of an airport code, so that VR is Vancouver (YVR) and UL is Montreal (YUL), but YYU is Kapuskasing. I'm going to Fort McMurray, YMM. Does YYU even have airline service? I examine it more closely and realize that YU isn't a partial airport code. It's someone's name. It's followed by a slash and the first name. Is that who checked me in? She didn't look like a Yu. I look over the rest of the claim check. It lists two flight numbers, one to Calgary, but not mine, and one to YXE. That's Saskatoon.
It's possible that I just have the wrong claim check sticker and that everything is fine with my bag. Or it's possible that my bag does not have the same travel plans as I do today. I explain my concerns to the gate staff where I disembark and they recognize the problem. Sure enough, there is no piece of checked baggage associated with my itinerary. I describe the bag and they type at computers and radio the baggage handlers to divert it. The situation appears to be under control, so I continue to my planned lunch meet.
Daniel recognizes me right away -- green hair is easy to spot, especially blowing wildly in the Calgary winds -- and I ask him if he's the man with the falafels. He admits to a change of plans: for various complicated reasons my free lunch is an enormous amount of chicken (or possibly beef: I'm not sure which one I ended up with) shwarma, with lots of spices and lettuce and whatever the Arabic is for tzaziki, all wrapped up in pita bread. Also olives and upscale orangeade.
Security chased us away from the first picnic table we chose. I had to ask, "is this a special secure picnic table?" No, it was the place the truck drivers ate. We went to another, not much further along. There we ate our sandwiches, talked about the same sort of things I talk about on the blog, chased down the bits of our picnic that kept blowing away in the wind, and wished each other well. Altogether preferable to eating at a chain restaurant in the terminal.
At the gate I enquired about my suitcase. They weren't the same people I had spoken to before, but they looked it up and said that it appeared to have been found. Ten minutes later they paged me to assure me it was on the flight. Except it wasn't. Right after I had explained to the person who came to pick me up that my suitcase had almost gone to Saskatoon without me, the baggage carousel stopped moving and there was a "that's it" announcement. I got to explain the saga again to the YMM customer service people, who got to work on tracing it.
I was just ruing my failure to notice the mis-tagging at the origin, but they were amused that I had noticed and interpreted the codes, and further amused that I produced a printed list of everything that had been in the bag when they asked what was in it. This is actually the first time I remember an airline (not counting Victory: they lost everyone's bags all the time) misplace my gear when it wasn't caused by a late flight and a tight connection.
Damnit, I should have double-checked that bag tag!